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Alaska Roadtrip - Anchorage / Tok / Fairbanks loop - when to go?

Alaska Roadtrip - Anchorage / Tok / Fairbanks loop - when to go?

Old Aug 11, 15, 12:41 am
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Alaska Roadtrip - Anchorage / Tok / Fairbanks loop - when to go?

I've just gotten back from a 3 week road trip across a bunch of national parks in California, Utah and Arizona and had an absolute blast of a time. To let myself down gently from the high of the trip and to have something new and interesting to think about, I've been wondering what to do next year. One of the things that came up is Alaska, which seems like an amazing place to visit. As the thread title suggests, one proposed itinerary involves road tripping from Anchorage, to Tok, then Fairbanks, and back to Anchorage, probably over one or two weeks. Nothing firm at the moment of course, this is all purely speculative.

One question I had though, was when would be the best time to visit? I know everyone suggests between June and August, but ideally I'd also like to have a chance to enjoy some snow, cold (I know for those of you who live there enjoying the snow and cold may seem like a foreign concept but try living in perpetual summer and close to 100% humidity and you'll greatly gain an appreciation for the cold. Guess it also works the other way round) and the northern lights. How far early (or late?) in the tourist season can I push it before everything shuts down and days are too short to do anything at all worthwhile? March or October perhaps?
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Old Aug 11, 15, 4:02 am
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One thing you might consider if you want to come in March, is to volunteer for the Iditarod. You can do anything from assisting with dogs in Anchorage, to working at a checkpoint in the bush. They generally open up announcements for volunteers between Oct - Dec each year on their website.
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Old Aug 11, 15, 8:46 am
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Well, if you're from Singapore, I'd have to say that enjoying the cold and snow and driving in it are two entirely different things.

It's also not predictable enough that you can count on things going your way. In October it can just be wet and miserable (and decreasing daylight) depending on where you are and how your luck is doing; in March it can be snowy OR you can encounter "breakup," the spring thaw that equals mud and potholes, by far the least desirable time to go road tripping.

Remember too, that cold and snow is almost always available if you get up above sea level some distance. Even in July you can walk on a glacier, or take a flightseeing trip where the plane lands on a glacier or a snowfield. Just a consideration.

To me at least, an Anchorage - Tok - Fairbanks - Anchorage loop doesn't have much appeal. There are some scenic parts, to be sure, but in the off-season there won't be much going on at the roadside, and, no disrespect to the locals, Tok isn't much of a place at any time of year. Driving past an inaccessible Denali National Park would be - to me at least - frustrating and disappointing.

I know you're keen on a road trip, but let me throw out an alternative just for you to consider. Could you come in late February?

Fly to Anchorage during Fur Rendezvous, the annual late-winter festival that features dogsled races through downtown, numerous contests and events, and culminates with the "unofficial" start of the famous Iditarod dogsled race. Major hoot.

Spend a few days in Anchorage, maybe including a drive down to Girdwood or Portage along beautiful Turnagain Arm. If your budget can tolerate an internal flight, maybe spend a night or two in the arctic - my usual suggestion is Kotzebue - to see what the bush feels like.

Anyway, then fly to Juneau and after a day or two visiting Alaska's picturesque capital (nearby glacier, skiing, dangerous wild animals prowling the halls of the legislature ) get on the Alaska state ferry and travel over three days to Bellingham, WA, a couple of hours north of Seattle. The "marine highway" is a road trip of sorts, traveling through the incomparable Inside Passage (the narrow protected waters between islands separating the Pacific and mainland Canada/USA) and stopping at a few interesting small towns like Petersburg and Ketchikan. The ferry in the winter is magical - silent, misty forests with snowy mountains peeking through the clouds - and the boat is basic but comfortable and cozy. You can fly out of Bellingham or take a bus or train to Seattle or Vancouver to continue your trip.

Just a couple of thoughts.

Some web links to investigate -

http://www.furrondy.net/
http://www.nullagvikhotel.com/
http://www.alyeskaresort.com/
http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/
Gardyloo is offline  

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